Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Former head of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy DeVos, is Donald Trump's pick to be education secretary. (Photo: CQ/Roll Call)

Warren Joins Nation's Teachers in Denouncing Trump's "Horrifying" Education Pick

In 16-page letter ahead of Wednesday hearing, Warren asks if Betsy DeVos will "gamble with our children's education in support of your radical political ideology"

In a scathing memo sent Monday to Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined a growing chorus of opposition to the nominee, probing her past support for "privatizing and defunding K-12 education" as well as her "paper-thin record on higher education and student debt."

"There is no precedent for an Education Department secretary nominee with your lack of experience in public education," Warren wrote (pdf) to DeVos ahead of the billionaire's Wednesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on which the senator sits.

Citing DeVos' unabashed bankrolling of conservative education reform efforts—and political spending on Republican candidates and causes writ large—Warren continued:

You are, of course, free to spend your fortune however you choose, but making large political contributions to "buy influence" does not qualify you to help set policy for the education of America's school children. To the contrary, your history of support for policies that would drain valuable taxpayer resources from our public schools and funnel those funds to unaccountable private and for-profit education operators may well disqualify you from such a central role in public education.

Indeed, Warren wrote later in the 16-page missive, DeVos' history of spending millions to support privatizing public education and sending public funds to religious and for-profit charter schools "raises questions about what kind of secretary of education you will be—one who is focused on results for students or one who is focused on gambling with our children's education in support of your radical political ideology."

And while Warren may be concerned by what there is to know about DeVos' approach to K-12 education, she is equally troubled by the nominee's "seemingly nonexistent record on higher education."

A big responsibility of the next education secretary, said Warren, is protecting student borrowers "from Wall Street's and the federal government's attempts to profit off them." As such, the senator asked of DeVos:

Do you agree with me and with President-elect Trump that it is fundamentally unfair for the federal government to be making a profit off the backs of students? Will you support reducing the interest rates on federal student loans?

Do you believe there is statutory authority to re-privatize the student loan program? If so, where is this authority? If not, will you oppose efforts by Wall Street lobbyists to pass legislation that privatizes the student loan program?

Furthermore, Warren expressed skepticism about DeVos' ability to oversee for-profit colleges, noting that "the very policies you have spent decades advocating for in elementary and secondary education—more free taxpayer money for private and for-profit education operators with virtually no strings attached—are the exact policies that have caused so many problems and harmed so many students in higher education."

Warren's concerns are shared by national teachers unions, which the Washington Post reports Monday are "mounting an aggressive campaign" against DeVos before Wednesday's hearing. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten laid out her union's opposition to DeVos in a speech Monday, while the National Education Association is urging members to call and email their senators, asking them to vote against DeVos' confirmation. 

Writing last week, Chicago public school teacher and Chicago Teachers Union member Erika Wozniak said she finds the prospect of Education Secretary DeVos "nothing short of horrifying."

Calling on lawmakers to reject the nominee, Wozniak wrote:

Put simply, I believe in public education. I believe that neighborhood public schools should be properly funded and resourced so they can be those anchors.

[...] I believe that every single child in this great country deserves access to a high-quality neighborhood public school, and I know millions of Americans share that belief.

In as much as I have devoted my career to turning that belief into reality, Betsy DeVos has poured both her time and her millions into attacking it.

And in a comment on Monday, public education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch combined Wozniak's critique with Warren's, denouncing DeVos' lack of "experience or qualificiations" and saying the heiress' "only plan is to weaken and destroy" U.S. public schools.

"DeVos is a billionaire who has never worked in a public school, never attended a public school, never sent her own children to public school," said Ravitch. "She has lived in a billionaire bubble of privilege. She has no understanding of the needs of our nation's public schools, and she is in fact actively hostile to them. This is unacceptable. She is unacceptable."

"Our public schools are one of the cornerstones of our democracy," Ravitch declared. "We have never had a secretary of education who was opposed to public schools. We should never have one."

DeVos' hearing starts Wednesday at 10am. Watch live here.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'A Deeply Dangerous Order': Trump-Appointed Judge Blocks Biden From Pausing New Oil Drilling Leases

"The judge's order turns a blind eye to runaway climate pollution that's devastating our planet."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


After Far-Right Marchers Chant 'Death to Arabs,' New Israeli Government Bombs Gaza

"The problem is bigger than Netanyahu—it's apartheid."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·